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Falcons come from behind to down Williamsville East, claim Class A1 crown

Buffalo, NY- Party like it’s 1973, Wheatfield.

The Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons came from behind and made timely stops down the stretch to defeat Williamsville East 59-56 and claim the Section VI Class A1 championship on Saturday night in front of a packed Buffalo State Sports Arena. It’s Wheatfield’s first sectional title in 49 years.

“We always pull a rabbit out of the hat somehow, and tonight we pulled another rabbit out of the hat,” Falcons head coach Erik O’Bryan said. “We were down most of the game, and these kids, they have something where they always persevere. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, they find a way and they just never stopped.”

The Falcons trailed the entire game before taking their first lead midway through the third quarter, which set up a frantic final frame that began with Wheatfield trailing 48-45. East’s Max Schneider quickly scored with a layup to kick off the final eight minutes and the Falcons deficit was five, 50-45.

Then, a 9-0 run over the next three minutes capped by a TJ Robinson 3-pointer gave Wheatfield the lead, 55-52, with four minutes to play. After two buckets from Schneider, and some Falcon free throws, Wheatfield clung to a 59-56 advantage with just 13 seconds remaining.

With a chance to tie the game, the Flames attempted to inbound the ball – only for Wheatfield’s Shawn Watson to steal it and throw it off an East body to give the Falcons the ball right back. After two missed Wheatfield free throws, Schneider came rushing down the court as the seconds ticked down and passed to Dorian Facen Jr. in the corner, whose potential game-tying shot came up short and sent the crowd’s Wheatfield contingent into pandemonium.

“It feels amazing,” said Robinson, who led the Falcons with 17 points. “We worked so hard as a team this year, went undefeated in the league, and we just wanted to win it all … It was great [to have the fans here], I feed off the crowd.”

The Flames would get out to an early lead thanks to a 9-2 run to open the game, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Jake Notaro. Two more triples from Mason Evans and Facen Jr. helped push Will East ahead 19-10 after one.

The second quarter belonged to Wheatfield’s Ty Kwitchoff, who finished with 12 points on the game.

The sharpshooting junior knocked three 3-pointers to cut into the Flames lead, as the Falcons scored the final five points of the frame and trailed at halftime 33-29.

Another Falcon who stepped up was senior big man Wyatt Cooper, whose presence in the paint was a problem for East all night. His layup kicked off the scoring in the second half and sparked an 11-5 run that gave Wheatfield their first lead of the night at 40-38.

“Xander Fletcher and TJ (Robinson) are so good at penetrating,” said Cooper, who had 13 points. “I really don’t do a lot. I’m standing there waiting for the ball to come, and tonight it came to me a lot, honestly.”

“We have more than just [Robinson and Fletcher] on this team,” O’Bryan added. “Last year, yes, it was them two and we made it to the finals and the run ended there because that’s all we had … We’re not a two man show, this is a group of guys who love each other, they love playing for each other, and they’re genuinely happy for each other.”

Not so surprisingly, it was one of Section VI’s leading scorers Schneider doing the damage for the Flames all night, as he finished with 27 points to cap off his stellar high school career.

“Our goal was to allow Max to do his thing, because we thought, ‘are we really going to hold Max down? Probably not,” O’Bryan said. “You can triple him, double him, he’s still going to get his somehow, he’s that good … I just kept telling the guys stick to the plan.”

The Falcons will play the Class A2 champion Amherst Tigers in the Section VI Class A crossover game on Tuesday night at Buffalo State College, with tipoff slated for 7:45 p.m.

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